Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Magic Detective in 2015

I've gotten a bit overwhelmed with shows and other projects the last couple months so this blog has sadly suffered. But never fear, I've got some cool things in store for 2015. About mid-month in July, I'll be doing an radio interview about Magic History. I'll post more on that as we get closer.

I'm also working to retool the Magic Detective Show on Youtube. First time it aired, I think I got out 6 episodes and then my camera broke. When I returned a year or so later, I changed some things about the content and then, well got busy with other stuff. I'm really having fun with the 'Victorian Magic' from Hoffmann segment, so I think that will be the emphasis going forward. However, I'm also hoping to do a few episodes where I visit different magic collectors and have them demo so of these wonderful gems from yesteryear. I'm still sorting out the different details, but I hope to have it back up and running in January.

The next thing on the agenda is my Houdini Book, which is close to being completed. More info on that once it's ready. Expect a 'March/April' (aka Houdini Birthday) time frame. I have a landing page set up for the book   If you're interested you can get on the waiting list and get to read one of the chapters now.

OH, AND I think I may be on hot on the trail of some new Daisy White revelations! That just
happened yesterday, so when we return in 2015, I hope I can share that information with you. I know they called Houdini the Elusive American, but that title really belongs to Daisy White! lol

Monday, December 15, 2014

A True Forgotten Illusion

Back in 1998, I purchased an unusual little booklet called Chung Ling Soo's Mechanists -They
Stayed Behind, by Brian McCullagh and Dr. J. Ernest Aldred. It's only 38 pages long and has some interesting photos and information within. The booklet is about two 'mechanists' from the Soo show, Phil Davies and Ernest Aldred, who stayed in Australia after Chung and the rest of the company moved on.

Within the 38 pages is a page on an illusion called The Lantern Illusion. This was created by Soo in 1907 and was also known as the Glass Casket, and also known as The Slave of the Lamp. I still remember reading about this illusion back in 1998, it had left a large impression on me. The illusion seemed incredible. A large 'lantern' made of glass was brought on stage and was proven to be empty. Then a cable was connected to the top and it was lifted off the stage. It was then spun and as it spun in circles the light would catch it and it made an incredible sight to see. Then, suddenly the figure of a woman appears inside the lantern as the cage is spinning. Except, the woman faces forward and does not spin, only the lantern surrounding her spins. Sounds pretty amazing and I sure don't recall seeing anything like this in any show of modern times.

So that brings me to the illustration here of Thurston presenting 'The Whirling Crystal Cage and Mysterious Production'. I had come across this on the internet maybe a year ago and the moment I saw it I remembered the Chung Ling Soo booklet. This must be the spinning lantern trick I had read about years before. Much like a LOT of magic back then, more than one performer was presenting it, sometimes legally, sometimes not. There were two copies made in Australia by Phil Davies. Thurston had a copy, which I assume he got permission to build from Soo. Though, Harry Kellar was known to steal everything, Thurston, as far as I can tell, got permission.

There is one Soo Poster that depicts the illusion. It can be seen in the Gary Frank book Chung Ling Soo the Man Behind the Legend. AND it can be seen in the Todd Karr book, The Silence of Chung Ling Soo, it's poster #36 near the front of the book and there it is called 'The Spinning Cage'.

In the Silence of Chung Ling Soo, Jim Steinmeyer has a short chapter on the illusion. It appears on pages 16-20. Jim describes the method used for the illusion, which I must say is quite elaborate. And he mentions that the illusion must have weighed upwards of 750 lbs. If you add the weight of the assistant, you've got 850lbs. That wouldn't be such a big deal except this big behomoth is spinning in the air!

I so want to see this thing in action!!! But, I don't think that is ever going to happen. It must have been a thing of true beauty. In fact, Percy Abbott, in his biography, A Lifetime of Magic, says this about the illusion, "This was a beautiful and spectacular effect. I can safely say one of the most beautiful I have ever witnessed and, believe me, to make that statement after viewing magic for more than sixty years, is unusual."

Does anyone know if any of the 5 Spinning Cage/Lantern Illusions exist anymore?

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Illusionists Open on Broadway

The ILLUSIONISTS has officially opened on Broadway. It's been a while since a big magic show has been to Broadway. David Copperfield brought is Dreams and Nightmares Show there years ago. And before him Harry Blackstone Jr. brought his show to Broadway. I guess the only one before them was Doug Henning who really started it all. Or more appropriately, Doug Henning restarted it all at the Cort Theatre in NYC with The Magic Show.

But now, rather than one man holding the stage it's Seven! And an interesting mix of magicians it is. The show includes: Kevin James, Dan Sperry, Andrew Basso, Aaron Crow, Jeff Hobson, Adam Trent,  and Yu Ho-Jin. Each has their own particular brand of magic, which is why they are described by titles such as The Inventor, The Manipulator, The Trickster and so forth.

They have been touring the WORLD for quite some time, but this is their first time in the USA. Wonder what New Yorkers think of the show? Read the review's hard to get a better review than that!

The Illusionists go on Tour of the US following the Broadway run. Check out their website for more information on tickets and tour schedule.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

What Came Before The Rabbit and Hat?

When lay people think of magicians, one of the first things that comes to mind is the Rabbit and Hat trick. Thanks to John Henry Anderson, the Great Wizard of the North, this effect has become the most iconic image of the magician. It dates to the Victorian era by the way. But there is another creature that has been the magical sidekick to many magicians, probably even before the Rabbit. That creature is the Goldfish.

I am not really certain who produced the first goldfish via magic, but I do know that it was in the act of Robert Houdin in the 1850s. If Houdin had it, then so did John Henry Anderson who got a great deal of his act from duplicating Robert-Houdin's act. Robert Houdin produced a bowl of goldfish. Magicians since that time have created many wonderful illusions with these little guys.

In Vienna Austria, probably slightly before Robert Houdin was Johann Hofzinser who presented a
Fountain of Love
very interesting effect called The Fountain of Love.  It begins with a glass goblet containing some sort of murky dark water apparently from the 'Fountain of Love'. A borrowed ring is tossed into the water to test whether the volunteer who lent the ring has true love, for if he/she does, the water will turn crystal clear. The performer covers the glass goblet with a scarf for a moment and then when it is removed the water can be seen to be clear and there are a a couple goldfish swimming inside the goblet. But the even more amazing part, one of the fish apparently has the ring in it's mouth! A net is used to retrieve the fish and the ring.

Hofzinser continued to develop the trick and eventually developed a slightly different routine he called 'The Ink of the Enamored'. The effect was similar, but the method had been changed.  A very primitive version of the trick is sold as 'Ink to Goldfish' today.

Chung Ling Soo presented an effect called Aerial Fishing where he would take a fishing pole and cast it out over the heads of the audience and a fish would appear on the end of the line. The fish would be reeled in and removed from the line and dropped into a fish bowl. Then the effect was repeated several times. Today, Mac King presents a slightly streamlined and very funny version of this effect.

Jack Gwynne, the illusionist, was known to magically produce a stack of goldfish bowls. This was one of his signature tricks. In fact, this particular trick is so associated with Jack Gwynne, that the Stack of Goldfish Bowl Illusion is actually etched into his tombstone! Jack Gwynne also had a Goldfish bowl illusion where he would produce a woman from a large goldfish bowl.

Maybe the craziest and in some ways coolest fish trick of them all is the Educated Fish by David
Devant. In this particular trick, the Magician has a large bowl of water and fish. On the bottom of the bowl are cards with letters on them. Words are chosen by audience members and written down on a blackboard. The fish them proceed to spell the words! They apparently hit the cards as they swim around and then the proper letters gradually float up to the surface! I told, crazy, but oh so cool.

As mind boggling as the effect seems, the method to produce the illusion is even crazier. Unfortunately, I don't give away magic secrets on this blog, but you may want to check out OUR MAGIC by Maskelyne and Devant  just to discover how the illusion works. To top things off, I had heard someone recreated this trick for one of the magic conferences a few years ago! Wow.

Today, Teller from Penn & Teller, presents a version of Miser's Dream in which coins are produced from a large tank of water. At the end of the routine 100 goldfish are magically produced as well. Interestingly, on page 283 of OUR MAGIC a very similar effect is described in the same article about the Educated Fish. Given that Teller is well known for his knowledge of Magic History, I guess it's possible that this was the source of his inspiration. The routine described in the book is a Misers Dream where the magician produced handfulls of coins and they are dropped into a large glass bowl on stage. It doesn't say if the bowl contained water, nor does it mention anything about a goldfish ending. Those additions are Tellers.

I too have ridden the Magic Goldfish Train. In fact, some of my friends jokingly call me the Goldfish Magician because of the countless number of ways I've developed to magically produce fish. I even do a goldfish routine in my School Assembly Show, but it uses fish images rather than actual goldfish.

David Copperfield has a really interesting goldfish routine where water mysteriously vanishes and the reappears in a glass and then with his barehands he produces a quantity of fish. 

My favorite Goldfish trick by someone other than myself is by Luis DeMatos. The first time I saw his routine I was blown away. I had been working on a similar thing myself but ran into a problem. When I saw his routine he had something unique, a cloth with a large hole in it. This allowed him to reach into the tank while it was covered.  About ten years ago, I emailed Luis and asked for permission to use this same cloth with a hole and he kindly gave me permission. I honestly don't know if he uses that anymore. I know though I used it for a time, I eventually moved onto other ways of producing fish.  But still today, I think Luis's routine is fantastic. The amount of fish that appear is astonishing. It's a beautiful effect and I'm glad he still performs it

I'm currently working on a NEW Goldfish effect for my Steampunk Illusionist Show. I'll post a link to it once it's completed.

By the way, the photo at the top came from a website that describes how to make this image in photoshop

Friday, November 14, 2014

Magic Auction A Few Hours Away

November 15th, Haversat & Ewing Galleries will be holding an auction of some really great magic items. There are Houdini items, Blackstone Sr. and Jr. pieces, a Chung Ling Soo Poster, and some Kellar items as well. In addition there are quite a few books and various letters which will be in the auction.

My two favorite items: The Marlin Daily Handcuffs that were once Houdini's and The Stack of Fishbowls.....Ok, I'm an odd one, lol. There are some wonderful pieces in this auction. Good Luck to All the Bidders! Auction begins at 11am.